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An American-Canadian team explored the Genyen Massif of China’s Western Sichuan Province in October, and came away with the first ascents of two striking peaks. Americans Dave Anderson, Molly Loomis, and Andy Tyson, along with Canadian Sarah Hueniken, traveled four days by jeep and horses to reach a base camp below the Rengo Monastery. The highest peak in the area, 20,341-foot Genyen, had been climbed earlier in 2006 by an Italian team, despite its sacred status among the local people, but the rest of the mountains were unexplored.
On October 16, the quartet attempted a single-push ascent of the 19,570-foot granite spire Shachun, but retreated after moving too slowly because of lack of acclimatization. Four days later, Anderson and Hueniken returned to complete the 4,000-foot climb to the summit in a 17-hour round-trip from high camp. Anderson described the climbing as a “spectacular, excellent crack system in near-perfect granite, including a 200-foot, ring-lock-sized splitter at 19,000 feet.”
The new route Naga on 18,500-foot Phurpa.Photo courtesy of Dave Anderson.
An unprotected, 25-foot slab gained the featureless summit ridge, and, since the pair chose not to bring a bolt kit, they had to downclimb from the top; Anderson snapped a crystal while downclimbing and plunged 30 feet, fortunately landing in a snow drift unharmed. As a tribute to their friends Todd Skinner, Karen McNeill, and Sue Nott, they called the climb Dang Ba ’Dren Pa (5.10+ M5, 70 degrees), a Tibetan phrase meaning “to inspire, enthuse, and uplift.”
The next day, Loomis and Tyson climbed an 18,500-foot peak they named Phurpa after the triple-bladed Tibetan dagger the peak resembled. Leaving their base camp at 14,500 feet, they fourth-classed loose rock and a steep snow couloir to gain the east ridge, then climbed six pitches of mixed snow and rock (5.8) to the top. They called the route Naga (the serpent).
The route line on Shachun (19,570 feet) above Rengo Monastery.Photo courtesy of Dave Anderson.
The team attempted four other peaks in the area unsuccessfully, and also helped the local monks build a small hostel for tourists, hoping to raise money to support the Rengo Monastery. “Although the Rengo Monastery survived the wrath of China’s Cultural Revolution, the monks and their religious freedom did not,” Anderson wrote in his expedition report. “At one time this community supported 266 monks; now there are just seven monks trying to revive their lost culture and a handful of people herding yaks living in the region.” Anderson added that the climbers were well-received by the monks and local people, but he urged future visitors to respect local customs and the sacred peaks in the area.
The expedition received funding from the W.L. Gore Shipton/Tilman Grant, the National Outdoor Leadership School, and Montrail. For more information and photos, visit http://web.mac.com/kondus/iWeb/Genyen/G%20Home.html.
Source: Dave Anderson
Dates of Ascents: October 20 and 21